The podcasting scene is booming, which can be both a blessing and a curse — while there are more shows than ever to fuel those beneficial hours on the treadmill, the loudest and most privileged voices always risk potentially drowning out those lesser-known ones. But marginalized podcasters are more than deserving of your listening time and a little promotion to help you find hidden gems.
Assembling this list has been a pleasure, partially because these shows are some of the best of the best, covering a wide expanse of nerdy and pop culture interests, but also because their marginalized roots often serve as their greatest strength. In the realm of pop culture, there remains the misconception of a dominant white ideal, and increasing objectives to dismantle the status quo can be kept in check by these stakeholders.
For marginalized creatives and budding producers, this improved ease of entry into broadcasting has helped introduce new possibilities for content on both sides of the mic. Shows like Nerds of Prey are able to connect their hosts, guests, and listeners across hundreds or thousands of miles, whereas mostly solo-run affairs like Eye on Sci-Fi can center on a single host as a measured showcase for a focused topic, akin to an audiobook.
It's an exciting time to be a podcast fan, and the direct path between fan and creator meaningfully decreases every year. I've met some of the wonderful creators on this list, while others I greatly hope to meet in the years to come, but if they're connected by anything, it might be this: They promptly take media to task before they've had their first cup of coffee in the morning, and they remind their diverse listenership that they're never alone. Come and join them.
Hard N.O.C. Life
In 2013, Keith Chow started the website The Nerds of Color and launched Hard N.O.C. Life, a pop culture YouTube show built around panel discussions, and specifically amplifying the perspectives of people of color on "nerd pop." Along with co-host Shawn Taylor and a wide span of contributors and guests, the podcast and website serve as a go-to locus and nerd news outlet, but those perspectives remain integral to the N.O.C. mission.
In addition to the flagship show Hard N.O.C. Life, an entire family of podcasts functions under the Hard N.O.C. Media banner, all of which serve a specific niche or purpose. Southern Fried Asian features guest interviews of creatives narrating their experiences growing up Asian in the American South, and the advice podcast AskBiGrlz is hosted by author and illustrator MariNaomi and writer Myriam Gurba. For lengthy deep-dives, Shawn Taylor’s show That Moment analyzes hyper-specific instances in an artist’s work, with the unique benefit of having that same creator reflect on them alongside him.
Eye on Sci-Fi
Writer and podcaster Rod T. Faulkner has been running his website The 7th Matrix for over five years with a singular focus: To shine a light on short-form independent films and web series within the speculative fiction genre. Entirely community-supported and ad-free, The 7th Matrix is an inspiring showcase for those of us who’ve burned through our Netflix queue and are looking for powerful new sci-fi projects that have dodged public scrutiny, and Faulkner has expanded these efforts into a new short-form podcast called Eye on Sci-Fi.
Every week, Faulkner presents a new sci-fi short you’ve probably never heard of in a concise yet detailed introduction, with more information and links to the content on his website. One of the great things about Eye on Sci-Fi is its established brevity; most episodes clock in at under ten minutes, making it the perfect coffee break show. Additionally, creators of color are frequently behind some of these shorts, making The 7th Matrix a go-to resource for unsung marginalized creatives and fans.
As 1/5th of this bi-weekly podcast with intentional hashtag, I might be a little biased, but #BlackComicsChat is much bigger than any one person (which also goes for its original founder, Thelonious Legend, a sci-fi author in his own right). The concept of the show boils down to this: every other Friday, a collection of hosts get together on a live stream, interview a guest, and engage an active Twitter audience with live questions and feedback.
All five hosts — Marcus Kwame Anderson, Grace Gipson, Thelonious Legend, Anthony Otero, and myself — come from a variety of creative backgrounds, all of which have significant roots in comics. While #BlackComicsChat's main emphasis is on independent creators of color, guests have run the gamut, from Big 2 veterans like David F. Walker and Larry Stroman to brilliant up-and-comers like writer Vita Ayala (look out for their Valiant debut with the upcoming Livewire series!). For listeners who can’t make the time on Friday nights for the live show, #BlackComicsChat uploads episodes into their podcast feed on a rolling schedule, though the on-air component adds a twist to the formula.
Nerds of Prey
Lauren Warren, Cameron Glover, Melissa Perez, and founder Shannon Miller are the Nerds of Prey, a group-oriented podcast of pop culture correspondents, writers, and fans. Casting a wide net on nerdy topics which include film, anime, comics, video games, and television, they’ve made a prominent name for themselves in the geek space, enabling regular guest appearances by industry luminaries and exclusive coverage of special events and premieres.
Active since 2016, one of the main hooks for the show is its firmly women-first perspective, lending insight grounded in the dense knowledge base and background of each host. These brilliant and busy Black women have bylines all over the internet, as well as the main Nerds of Prey website, which features a growing collection of essays, event coverage, and commentary by hosts and contributors. Best of all, though, the cycling rotation and chemistry of the four Nerds of Prey themselves ensures that each episode is full of wisdom and a strong sense of community, not to mention some well-deserved shade and critique on the pop culture properties which warrant it.
Video game and rap fans might be familiar with Philadelphia emcee Mega Ran, a former teacher-turned-rapper whose moniker pays homage to Capcom’s Blue Bomber. Sampling and reconfiguring decades of deep video game influences, Mega Ran saw great success with a slate of releases sampling the iconic soundtracks from the Mega Man game series, among others; the Final Fantasy VII homage Black Materia is a particular crowd favorite.
Two years ago, Mega Ran added one more ingredient to his list of publicized nerdy projects: Mat Mania, a podcast about professional wrestling. Joined by co-hosts Teek Hall, Neoecks, and a rotating assortment of special guests and even Patreon supporters, Mat Mania covers a variety of topics every episode: the history of pro wrestling, A-show wrap-ups, live event coverage, hip hop, and even special debuts of Mega Ran tracks. All of the hosts are very opinionated, which is a good thing when you consider the episodes they effectively carry while main eventer Mega Ran is busy touring.
Tea with Queen & J.
The Bronx continues to shine everlasting on Tea with Queen & J., a long-running podcast featuring Janicia and Queen, two savvy and filter-free New Yorkers on a mission to “dismantle white supremacist patriarchal capitalism one episode at a time.” Running since 2014, the podcast is a platform for the vibrant chemistry between these two hilarious and insightful Black women, deftly maneuvering between the serious political issues of the day, breakdowns of Netflix shows, and on-the-floor coverage of comic conventions.
Tea with Queen & J. is one of those cozy but stimulating experiences of sitting with smart friends who never shy from calling out fake nonsense. Since the launch of the show, Janicia and Queen’s platform has proudly risen, with a growing series of live events (including their podcasters meet-up #PodinLiveNYC and their annual Juneteenth celebration), panel appearances, and guest spots on other podcasts, including For All Nerds and Latinos Who Lunch. New episodes of the show drop weekly on Tuesday, and you can high-five Janicia when you see her at a convention (potentially in cosplay).
Latinos Who Lunch
FavyFav and Babelito are two gregarious, highly educated, and hilarious Chicano podcasters who bring weekly incisive conversations that break down Latinx stereotypes, queer media, political news, and social institutions. Latinos Who Lunch has been around since 2016, and the hosts’ unique roots in the arts world fuels a spirited rotation of guests, which includes academics, visual artists, other podcasters, and more.
In a vein somewhat similar to the Tea with Queen and J. podcast, FavyFav and Babelito approach hairy political topics and pressing representational matters with a mix of serious analysis, personal reflection, and weaponized wit. Conversational and quick on their feet with an informed and empowering presence, Latinos Who Lunch’s guests seem able to open up on everything, from heady deconstructions of Pixar’s Coco to the ways white people order tacos in a restaurant. Shows like this one recognize and tussle with the mythic fallacy of a Latinx monoculture, making it a great starting point for exploring the expansive diversity inherent in the term, while also never straying far from a good laugh.
For All Nerds
From the Loudspeakers Network comes For All Nerds, serving up pop culture and commentary by DJ Benhameen, Tatiana King Jones, and Jeff J. These three nerdy Black hosts chat up Star Wars, comic books, TV shows, and Marvel’s latest blockbusters, along with special interviews and features. In addition to the marquee show, its podcast stream spans an extensive network covering wrestling, anime, and horror movies, as well as post-mortems and analyses on airing TV shows.
There’s a good mix of content on For All Nerds episodes, with news roundups, a primary interview portion, and ongoing commentary on the political issues present throughout nerdity each year. The guest schedule features A-listers from hit films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther, as well as comic artists, novelists, and even other podcasters, granting the podcast something of a variety show feel. If there’s a new superhero film or television series on the horizon, it’ll probably be chopped up here.
The Radical Geeks
This special monthly interview podcast series comes courtesy of SYFY WIRE's own Karama Horne (aka @theblerdgurl) and Angélique Roché, host of SYFY WIRE's Geeksplain and the Marvel’s Voices podcast. Interestingly, The Radical Geeks is recorded live (so far) at Anyone Comics in Brooklyn, NY. Focused on the intersection of comics and people of color, the show is prepping for its upcoming fifth episode with Frederick Joseph, founder of the non-profit We Have Stories.
For local New Yorkers, catching The Radical Geeks once a month is its own special event, but the podcast itself is characterized by an off-the-cuff, live feel, as well as its in-depth Q&A format between hosts and guest. Previous guests have included Regine Sawyer (founder of Women in Comics and the annual WinC Con) and science-fiction/fantasy writer Carlos Hernandez.